Ran February 13 – March 31, 2024 at La Jolla Playhouse’s Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre in La Jolla, CA

Book by
Tina Landau

Music by
Kate Diaz

Lyrics by
Kate Diaz and Tina Landau

Conceived by
Tina Landau and Idina Menzel

With Additional Contributions by
Idina Menzel

Directed by
Tina Landau


THE CAST (in speaking order)

Jesse  Idina Menzel

Mel  De’Adre Aziza

Spencer, Clerk, Man in Rain, Mateo   Zachary Noah Piser

Finn  Michael Park

Becca  Nkeki Obi-Melekwe





CLIMB – Jesse, Finn, Becca



A LITTLE BIT WILD – Finn, Jesse, and Becca

BACK THEN -Mel, Jesse



ROOTS – Finn



STELLA – Jesse, Stella




STILL – Spencer, Jesse, The Trees


Vocals for Stella and The Trees by Kate Diaz



NOTE: **This is not official. I saw it multiple times and it’s based on my interpretation. I placed the photos in the proper locations (as best I recall) to help you visualize it. It’s so beautiful and moving on stage, so there’s really no comparison but I’d like to have it documented here as part of Idina’s stage work whether or not it continues on to Broadway. But let’s all cross our fingers for a transfer! **

Jesse walks on stage into her office. It’s the middle of the night and she’s working while trying not to think of Him. Mel, her wife, comes in and asks her to come to bed. She’s upset that for almost a year she’s been lying to friends and family and telling them that Jesse’s fine. Jesse says it will take as long as it takes for her to be okay while Mel wants Jesse to help herself and process what happened. Jesse is upset because Mel was looking at photos and left them out. They argue and Jesse says she’s leaving. It’s a long weekend and she needs to take a long drive. She kisses Mel, tells her she loves her and leaves in a rush while Mel protests.

The Place

Jesse drives and drives. She is desperate for a place to heal. She stops at a hotel and runs into someone who reminds her of Him. She leaves in a rush and keeps driving. She stops again. It’s dark out. You can see the stars but it’s raining. Jesse starts dancing in the the rain. The air is pure and she’s smiling while standing in the rain but then she sees a man who reminds her of Him. She leaves in a rush and keeps driving. She needs to find somewhere that doesn’t remind her of Him. (The Place)

Jesse finally reaches the redwood forest. She’s in absolute awe. Finn and Becca, two botanists, find her sleeping on the ground very early the next morning and tell her the area is restricted and she has to leave. Finn is very friendly while Becca is guarded and stand-offish. Jesse is very curious about the redwoods and Finn is happy to share his knowledge.

Jesse asks why the tree trunks are black and Finn shares that it’s fire damage. Redwoods are fire-resistant and actually need fire to propagate because the fire loosens the seeds from the cones. Their bark is thick and holds water to protect their heartwood (the center of the tree). Jesse is fascinated that trees have hearts but Finn explains that the heartwood is dead. It doesn’t carry nutrients or water but it is the strongest part of a tree and it’s resistant to bugs and decay.

Finn and Becca have rigged the tree to climb to the canopy and Jesse asks to watch. She’s fascinated by it and starts rambling and asking a million questions to Becca’s chagrin. Jesse expresses interest in climbing the tree but Becca shuts her down. (Climb)

Becca tells Jesse she needs to be quiet and honor the forest by listening to it. Jesse can’t stop herself, though. She wonders if trees are sentient and if they can feel things. Becca is annoyed by all the questions and tells her she’s going to tell her a story about the redwoods but she needs to be totally quiet. Jesse agrees. Becca tells her about the history of the redwood tree and everything it has witnessed throughout history. (Little Redwood)

Jesse is listening to her voicemails. She has messages from work and Mel has left increasingly frustrated messages. Jesse records a group message apologizing for her actions. She’s sorry and knows it’s selfish but she had to leave, so she wants everyone to move on without her. She’s not going to check her messages and she’s letting everything and everyone go. (Dear Everyone)

Jesse falls asleep sitting up. We hear music but it and the lighting indicate something is off here. Mel and a boy are performing Beyonce’s ‘Deja Vu’ to make Jesse laugh. She joins them while laughing and dancing but then it melts away and Jesse wakes up in a panic. She frantically tries to put on Becca’s climbing equipment but Finn and Becca find her and stop her. They yell at her and she’s apologetic, explaining that she just wanted to escape and wasn’t thinking.

Finn tries to calm everyone down. He tells Jesse about all the places he’s lived and Becca lists his accomplishments. He used to be a teacher and researcher who is certified to teach people how to climb redwood trees. Becca has a PhD and works to protect the forest. They ask Jesse about her life and she shares that she’s married and has a 23 year old son named Spencer. Finn shares that he’s also married with a son. Jesse tries to change the subject but Finn keeps asking questions. She is upset but reveals that Spencer passed away unexpectedly a year ago. She lets them off the hook and changes the subject. Finn feels badly and offers to show her how to climb. Jesse declines at first because she knows she was wrong earlier. Finn tells her about how he grew up as a wild child and how when he was a professor, he was fired for dancing on tables and cursing. He thinks Jesse is a bit wild like he is and shows her how to climb. (A Little Bit Wild)

Jesse is back in her room and icing her neck and shoulder after climbing. Mel keeps calling but Jesse keeps sending her to voicemail. Finally she picks up and Mel is irate that she hasn’t heard from her in days. Jesse thinks her grief is more severe because she gave birth to Spencer but Mel argues that she raised Spencer since he was 3 and took care of him while Jesse worked. Jesse throws it in Mel’s face that she let Spencer go to LA, but she knows it was a low blow and immediately apologizes. She tells Mel she’s fine but she needs time. She knows she’s not going about it the right way but she is starting to see glimpses of healing.

Back Then

Mel & Jesse reminisce about their chance meeting and happy life together. Mel wants to try to get back to that life but it hurts too much for Jesse to think about it. Mel wants to go through the pain but Jesse wants to go around it. (Back Then)

Jesse watches videos about Julia “Butterfly” Hill and we learn that she was a workaholic chasing money until she got until a car accident. After she recovered, she took a road trip and joined a group of tree sitters. She ultimately lived in a tree for over 2 years. (Side note: this story originally sparked Idina’s idea for the musical. Also, this is the only moment Idina is off stage and it’s very brief.)

Jesse relates to Julia’s story and enthusiastically finds Finn and Becca. She tells them she wants to work for them and climb the redwood again. Becca says they don’t need help but Jesse is insistent. Finn says he might make an exception and Becca is shocked. Finn knows first-hand how a climb can transform  people. He shares that he regrets not climbing with his first wife. She wanted to join the tree sitters but she died before they could do it, so he did it alone in her honor. It made him want to laugh and cry at the same time and he realized that he could make the choice to be either happy or sad. Ultimately, it was up to him and he decided to choose joy. He thinks Jesse hasn’t decided what she wants to do yet, so that is why he wants to show her how to climb. Becca is aghast that Finn has agreed and protests. They gear up and climb the tree live on stage. (The Ascent)

The Ascent

Finn and Becca are impressed that Jesse has made it to the platform. She’s a little woozy and Finn asks if she’s afraid of heights. She says no. They make sure she’s OK and then head up to the crown for their research, leaving her alone. Jesse is talking herself down from a minor panic attack. She sees the view and is blown away. She finally found a sense of peace. (Great Escape)


Finn tells Becca that Jesse wants to spend the night in the tree. Becca thinks the idea is ludicrous and Jesse calls her out for always arguing with her. Finn concedes that it’s too risky but Jesse is insistent. She needs this.

Finn’s son, Mateo, arrives and Jesse has a flashback with the same lighting cues as when she sees Him. Jesse quickly recovers and says hello but can’t look at him. Mateo and Becca start talking about Nintendo and something he says triggers another flashback. Jesse calls out Spencer’s name, confusing Mateo. She plays it off, saying Spencer also used to play Nintendo but then she has another flashback. Each flashback is more intense than the last. Finn interrupts and announces that he decided she can spend the night in the tree. Becca disagrees vehemently, saying Jesse is not mentally in a place where she should be spending a night alone in a tree. They argue and Finn ultimately apologizes to Becca.

Finn asks Jesse if she knows how deep a redwood’s roots are. She says they must be deep because they’re so tall. But, in fact, the roots are extremely shallow. The roots intertwine and link the trees together, so they all hold each other up. Humans also need that kind of connection to survive, so Finn declares that they will support Jesse and let her spend the night in the tree. Mateo calls Finn a hypocrite and leaves. Finn and Becca load Jesse up with supplies and directions to aid her survival. Finn tells Jesse she’s brave and Becca admits that is true. Becca shares a Jewish expression that means “do not destroy nature” and they leave Jesse alone. (Little Redwoods Reprise)

Alone in the tree, Jesse has an existential crisis. She’s doubting herself and doesn’t understand what compelled her to do this. It’s just another way for her to distract herself from all the mistakes she’s made. The intensity starts building and now it’s a full blown panic attack. She admits that she’s willing to jump. She’s not afraid of heights, she’s afraid of her desire to jump. She feels like she’s dying and can’t breathe. She’s trying to talk herself down from the panic attack but keeps spiraling until she starts telling herself to walk to the edge and jump. Suddenly, the tree catches her attention. The tree seems to be subtly waving to her and there’s a little musical theme. Jesse realizes trees are sentient and introduces herself. She calls the tree Stella and declares she’s not alone.

Mel records a video message for Jesse. They are approaching the one year anniversary of Spencer’s death and she put together a photo collage because it helps her manage her grief. She pointedly shares the photos (referencing their argument at the beginning) and laments that she will be alone on the anniversary and they can’t go back to how things were. She needs to move on. At the end, she realizes her phone wasn’t recording. (Back Then Reprise)

The next day, Finn says he thinks he’ll let Jesse stay in the tree since she made it though the night and it seems to be helping her. He asks Becca if she wants to grab a drink after work and Becca pointedly suggests he should be at home instead. Finn says his family is better off without him because he is really only good with the trees. He says his first wife understood that about him.

We see Jesse up high in the tree entertaining herself with mundane tasks and the animals who encounter her. She seems lighter, maybe even happy. She’s having fun up there alone with Stella. (Stella)

The radio announces that a storm might be moving in, so Becca swings by to tell Jesse that dry lightning can cause wildfires and if it gets closer, they will have to get her down. Jesse asks Becca to visit with her but Becca protests, saying she has other things to do. Jesse finally convinces her to visit and let her guard down.

Becca visits Jesse

Becca tells Jesse that her mother was Jewish and she taught her another Jewish concept: we are here to repair the world. That is her life purpose and she believes you can always repair what is broken. Her house burned down in a wildfire as a child and it’s what inspired her to follow her career path saving the redwoods. She believes you can always find light even in the midst of tragedy and she intends to be part of the solution. She’s young and idealistic, brimming with hope and confidence. (Becca’s Song)

Jesse shoots down the idea that you can always rebuild after tragedy. She thinks repairing a broken heart is impossible but Becca insists that it’s a choice. Jesse is frustrated and hurts Becca’s feelings. Becca starts to leave and Jesse finally shares her story. Her son, Spencer, had barely graduated college in CA and moved back home. He wasn’t motivated to work and was only interested in partying. He wanted to go back to LA but Jesse and Mel insisted he needed a job and a plan. He wouldn’t get his act together and was sneaking out. Mel thought they should let him go back to LA but Jesse disagreed. One night, Jesse and Spencer argued and he said terrible things. The next day, they gave him money and flew him to LA while insisting he get a job. He called every day, sounding happy and said he was looking for work. After a few days, he stopped calling. Days later, they got a call from the police. He’d been found dead in his hotel room from a fentanyl overdose. An accidental one, she’s quick to add.

Jesse sings about her grief. Missing the signs, not doing enough, all the regrets and “lasts” after someone dies. No matter what you do, there’s no fixing your broken heart. (No Repair) Jesse tells Finn not to miss another moment with his son.

Finn radios Jesse

The radio announces that lightning is moving in but they think it’s still pretty far away. Finn radios Jesse to tell her that she needs to pack up because they will be back in an hour to get her down. Jesse is not pleased. She tells Stella they are in danger but she doesn’t want to leave. She can see the fires but she doesn’t want to run away. Stella always stands her ground and survives. Jesse doesn’t know how to proceed. She wants to protect Stella so she doesn’t lose her like she lost Spencer but it’s dangerous. She’s not sure if she dares to stay.

The fire has moved in much more quickly than anticipated. Finn tells Becca he needs to save Jesse but Becca convinces him he can’t. She’s in the crown, the safest place during a wildfire. Becca tells Finn that Jesse taught her that everyone has to deal with tragedy in their own way. She needs to be home to protect her home and dogs, Finn needs to be with his family and Jesse needs to be up there. Jesse realizes that she needs to come face to face with her pain to heal so she decides to stand her ground. She starts choking on smoke and faints. (Let The Fires Come)


Spencer comes to Jesse. At first she doesn’t believe he’s really there but he convinces her. He makes her look at him even though she doesn’t want to. He tells her his death was an accident and there’s nothing she could’ve done to change what happened. Jesse is sobbing. He tells her that even though he’s gone, there are still so many reasons to live. Everyone dies, so you need to live your life while you can. (Still)


Jesse calls Mel and tells her she wants to come home. She knows she’s been selfish but she’d like to explain herself. They decide they both want to make it work and they will accept each other’s grieving processes.

Jesse descends from the tree top and reflects on everything she’s gone through. She’s happy she made the decision to leave home that first day. She reminds Finn and Becca about their first talk about a redwood’s heartwood. She says that if she were a tree, her heart would be strong because it uses those who have died as a source of strength. Spencer is her heartwood and holding him there helps her keep on living. They all agree that like redwoods, we need connections. (Finale)


Jesse takes a moment, hugs Stella and says goodbye.

The End


Theme: Overlay by Kaira